Welcome back fight fans! Yesterday we looked at my breakdown of the UFC 135 preliminary fights, and today we’re going to look at the main card. We have a few familiar faces in action and one past vs. future type of showdown for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Let’s go!
Welcome back Big Ben. Rothwell paid a huge price in his victory over Gilbert Yvel last June, tearing his ACL and breaking his nose enroute to victory. A year later, he steps in against PRIDE veteran Mark Hunt, who has had a rocky road of his own in the UFC. Both fighters were monstrous in their own rights at one point – Rothwell a perfect 9-0 in the IFL, and Hunt holds the distinction of being the one who ended Wanderlei Silva‘s four-plus year unbeaten streak, though, after a break away from MMA, he hasn’t returned with the same level of force in years previous.
We need to really get one thing straight here – Hunt is a powerful, yet one dimensional fighter, and mixed martial arts has evolved so much since Hunt’s heyday in 2004 that he’s almost an underdog every time he steps into the cage. He’s a kickboxer without a lot of proven skill on the ground. If Rothwell chooses to stand this up and box, Hunt has a chance. However, Rothwell’s an adventurous, yet smart fighter happy to do whatever it takes to win. If this fight goes to the ground (which with Rothwell’s fight awareness, it should,) it might be a quick night for the Super Samoan. Rothwell’s not the kind of guy who gets shaken off his game plan easily, and this should prove to be a triumphant night for Big Ben.
Prediction: Ben Rothwell def. Mark Hunt via Submission
Beat your opponent fast, or risk getting beaten. Gomi lives by this philosophy, and his lightning speed and explosive nature have given him the nickname “Fireball Kid.” Gomi, at one point of the most unstoppable fighters on the planet has seemed like a mere mortal in the UFC since coming over. He’s 1-2, and the door is open for his release with a loss.
Holding that door open, hoping not to get pushed out himself is Diaz, who himself has two recent one-sided losses to Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald. Diaz, the slightly more likeable of the two brothers has had a lot of the heat off him lately with all that has happened with Nick’s situation, and he’s been allowed to slide through without any drama on his end.
Both men will probably be fighting like scared animals this fight – aggressively without abandon. Gomi’s never been the type to hold back period, but he’ll probably come out with more fire than the Tyson Griffin fight. Diaz will probably try to play the waiting game, but Gomi’s a bit too imposing to do that for long, and a renegade tagging from Gomi’s jab will probably shake off any ideas of a pensive fight. This is probably your “pre-fight on-paper” fight of the night candidate going into the event. This will come down to whether Gomi’s reckless abandon will result in Diaz catching him in a submission, or whether Gomi will keep his head and defense up and allow himself not to be caught again. I would like to think Gomi’s a bit wiser to the ways of UFC Fighters now that he’s been caught by Kenny Florian and Clay Guida, and this awareness will push him over the top.
Prediction: Takanori Gomi def. Nate Diaz via TKO
Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton
I had to do a double take and make sure this really was on the main card. Broughton hasn’t fought in over a year after having to pull out of a scheduled fight with Dave Herman, and he’s landed quite the battle here. Browne punched his ticket (no pun intended) to this fight knocking out Stefan Struve in May in ridiculous fashion. That battle of the giants (Browne is 6’8) shook the very foundations of the cage, and if the late Gorilla Monsoon were here, he would’ve told us “they had to reinforce the cage here for these two monsters.”
Broughton comes in with 5 straight wins to his name. You wouldn’t expect a fighter of Broughton’s size to play submissions so much, but his background’s in submission wrestling, and four of those five victories have come by submission.
This fight interests me because I don’t really know where both fighters go from here. Who fights who next? Browne would be headed toward bigger and better things, but a Broughton win would still put him a few fights from the division’s big names. I could see Browne perhaps meeting someone like Brendan Schaub or even Shane Carwin, but Broughton? He’d probably have to go through one or two fighters in the middle tier of the heavyweight division (like Herman) before he got to the bigger names. I’ll give a slight edge to Browne here, whose strength I believe can give him the advantage over Broughton’s relentless ground game.
Prediction: Travis Browne def. Rob Broughton via Split Decision
Hughes is an interesting guy. Over his last few fights, he’s looked like little more like a gatekeeper. He’s the one that holds the key to the big names at 170, but he himself is still a big enough name that if you beat him, it’s a legitimate notch in your fight belt. Koscheck is a guy looking for his way back in. After a one sided loss to Georges St. Pierre last winter which left him with a broken orbital bone and a lot of hurt pride, Koscheck has taken time off to heal and reflect, and comes in as a replacement for Diego Sanchez.
This fight has been wildly interesting from the get go, with Koscheck claiming he posted a fake acceptance on Twitter just to get Hughes to commit, further saying the former champion was ducking him. Hughes said on the conference call for the event, however, that he was never offered a previous fight with Koscheck, but was looking forward to the opportunity.
The biggest questions coming into the fight are whether Hughes still has it left in him to win a fight of this magnitude, and whether this will be his last in the UFC? Hughes has neither confirmed nor denied the rumor, stating only that he wouldn’t sign another four-fight contract.
Expect the MMA world to slow down and watch this fight, as all eyes will be on the popular Hughes coming into, and even after the fight. If this is the last time we’ve seen Matt Hughes, congratulations to a fantastic career win or lose. If it happens to be win, Koscheck’s status as a legitimate contender will be heavily in doubt, and he will have a longer road than usual to get back there. A win will probably pit Koscheck against someone like the aforementioned MacDonald should he beat Brian Ebersole. A loss will probably throw him to the lower part of the main card, or even on Spike for a fight or two. Expect Koscheck to come in hungry, and make few mistakes here, because if he makes them, Hughes will pop in for the kill, and that will be all she wrote. It pains me to say this, but I’m going to say Koscheck’s probably better prepared, since all the pressure is on him to perform, and he stands to lose more than Hughes, who has nothing left to prove.
Prediction: Josh Koscheck def. Matt Hughes via Unanimous Decision.
Bear with me, because this is a long one.
Jackson is one of the biggest charismatic enigmas in MMA history. A walking one-liner after another, Rampage remains one of the most beloved, and most hated fighters in MMA history. There’s no middle ground.
“Bones” Jones seems to be heading down a similar path. Once the young beloved babyface, his recent antics and success seem to be giving a few people the cold shoulder. Huge battle lines have been drawn here. On one side of the canyon stands Jones and his supporters. On the other stands Rampage and his supporters. In the middle valley – The MMA media awaiting the clash.
Our very own Gil Martinez said it best in his blog when he wrote that Jones has a natural talent you cannot teach. He appears so natural, so unflappable and so fluid that you wonder if anything, or anyone could get him off his game. Almost awkward to the spotlight, Jones has proven critics time and again that his fight game is legitimate, (and perhaps best so, since his talking game leaves a lot to be lacked.)
Then there’s the former title-holder. “Rampage” Jackson’s personality transcends the seemingly disciplined organized chaos of mixed martial arts. At a time where fighters are all too happy and humble for their opportunities, Jackson enters with a swagger and an attitude that makes him both a babyface and a heel at the same time. It feels like he’s been around forever since eyes have been on him for the better part of the last decade, and then you realize he’s only 33. An innovator of sorts inside and outside of fights, the Memphis product has a natural charisma that many wish they had, but will never possess.
This probably won’t be a fight. This will be an out and out standup war. Both men have been chattering at each other nonstop, and both men know exactly what they’re getting into. “Rampage” is not interested in the judo match of the century. Jones is not interested in providing a BJJ clinic. Neither man is going to rush for a takedown, and we’d be foolish to think we’re going to see anything but two fighters that want to put each other to sleep with their fists rather than their submissions.
Rampage will be giving up a lot of reach to Jones (though to be fair, everybody this side of Dhalsim does) but is relentless in the amount of punishment he can take, and will use that to close that distance. Jones has the speed advantage and can nail you with three elbows before you’ve had time to feel the first one.
If I can offer you any advice it’s that you shouldn’t leave the room. I’m not even sure this is going to leave the first round. It may take Jackson longer to reach the Octagon howling than the entire fight. Nobody’s going to hold back from the beginning, and I hope the referee’s moved out of the way in time for the fireworks to beginning.
When it all settles, I expect Jones will be the one standing at the top. It’s never safe to rule “Rampage” out, however, when you’re looking at the tools needed to succeed in mixed martial arts nowadays, Jones brings in a more flexible game than Jackson. Seven years ago, if this fight was in PRIDE and Quinton was in his prime, I would be whistling a much more different tune, however, I believe he’ll lay a good beating on Jones, but ultimately, will fall short in his question to become champion again.
Prediction: Jon Jones def. Quinton Jackson via TKO
With so many events going on this weekend, I hope you give everything a fair shake. Don’t forget Bellator‘s new season continues tonight, bringing Joe Warren and Chase Beebe back to the cage, and I hope you stayed up late to catch DREAM.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC